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May is National Bike Month! In fact, Saturday, May 7, 2022 Lackawanna Heritage Valley’s Heritage Explorer Bike Tour is returning in person for the first time since 2019. For those who have a bike, now might be a good time to dust it off and enjoy the many beautiful and well-maintained trails that are available at the Countryside Conservancy at Lackawanna State Park, other locations in the Abingtons or the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority. For those who don’t have a bike, it might be a good time to get one!


There are many obvious reasons to bike…cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, improve leg strength and others. But, the real question is, “what are the advantages of biking over other forms of exercise?” Glad you asked…


  1. INEXPENSIVE – while not as cheap as running, biking can be much cheaper than other sports. Starter bikes can be less expensive than high end running shoes.
  2. EASY – most people can learn to ride a bike. Kids begin with training wheels and adult tricycles are available.
  3. FAMILY FUN – something the whole family can enjoy in your neighborhood, at the beach or on one of the trails.
  4. PRACTICAL EXERCISE – it is an opportunity to exercise while traveling to work, store, lunch etc…bike it!
  5. CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS – good for the heart and all that goes with it: burns calories, lowers blood pressure, lowers LDL, and elevates HDL and boosts the immune system.
  6. LEG STRENGTH – pedaling a bike is a great way to improve leg strength.
  7. CORE STRENGTH – core muscles of the neck, middle and lower back and the associated arm strength will improve while biking in order to maintain your torso on a bike on hills and turns.
  8. IMPROVES BALANCE/COORDINATION/FALLS PREVENTION – riding a bike requires some balance and coordination and therefore will improve balance as a form of falls prevention.
  9. GOOD FOR YOUR JOINTS – bike riding only requires partial weight bearing to the spine and lower body joints so it is more comfortable and gentle to your joints than walking or running. For this reason, it is often recommended to pregnant women suffering from leg or lower back pain as a safe alternative to running.   
  10. MENTAL WELLNESS – biking, like all aerobic exercise, is a great source of stress management as it releases endorphins and serotonin which improves mental health. With the added feature of being outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, biking keeps you smiling!


Prevention is the best management of musculoskeletal problems associated with biking. First, many of the problems associated with biking such as knee pain, buttock soreness, and tendonitis can be prevented through proper fitting. Furthermore, it is important that your equipment be in good working order such as tires, chain, brakes and pedals. Next, be sure to maintain a fairly good fitness level in order to bike safely. If you are a beginner, start slowly. Warm up and slowly bike for 10 to 15 minutes and build up over time. Practice the coordination of stopping, starting, shifting and braking. Work on good strength and flexibility of the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and gluteal muscles. All of these muscles are necessary to generate pedal force. Balance is also important to safety and can be practiced on and off the bike. Be aware that adaptive equipment can modify your bike for added comfort and safety such as soft handlebar tape, seat post and front fork shock absorbers, padded biking shorts, c-out and gel pad saddle seats, and wider tires.

Be careful not to progress too quickly because inactivity to over activity in a short period of time can create problems. Overuse injuries such as tendonitis, can be avoided by cross training. Bike every other day and walk, run or swim on off days. Make sure to take time off to recover after a long ride. Use ice and massage to sore muscles and joints after riding.

Remember, cycling should be fun! Pain from improperly fitted and poorly maintained equipment is preventable. Excessive workouts and training rides should be kept to a minimum and consider cross-training in between.  


EQUIPMENT: Helmets are a must! Also, keep your bike in good condition. Road bikes should have mirrors and reflectors. Use hand signals and obey traffic rules. Dress for weather and visibility. Have a first aid and tire patch kit, tire pump and tools. Seat comfort can be improved with gel cushion or split seat.

BE ALERT: for traffic, parked cars, pedestrians loose gravel and cracks in the road. 

SOURCES: American Physical Therapy Association

According to the New York Times, there is a shortage and backorder of bicycles this summer due to COVID-19, especially in the cities where public transportation is discouraged. Fortunately, in NEPA, the problem is not so extreme. For those who have a bike, now might be a good time to dust them off and enjoy the many beautiful and well-maintained trails are available at the Countryside Conservancy at Lackawanna State Park, other locations in the Abingtons or the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority.

However, whether you head out for 5 or 50 miles, ensuring a proper bike fit should be on your checklist. Riding a bicycle that is properly fit to your style and body will not only help to prevent injury, but allow for a more comfortable riding experience.  There are many things to take into consideration when checking your bike fit. First and foremost you must choose a bike that fits your style of riding.


For the sake of simplicity 3 basic styles of bikes include Road bikes, Hybrid bikes and Mountain bikes. Road bikes are designed for long distance riders, hybrid bicycles can be used for longer distance riders, but usually accommodates a recreational cyclist, and mountain bikes are designed for dirt or gravel and technical trails. The next component of ensuring a proper bike fit is making sure that you have a good foundation by choosing the right sized frame. To find the right sized frame you can use the following guidelines as a way to start or simply ask the local bike shop or bike fit consultant of your choice for help.

Road bikes: When straddling the bike you should have about 1” of clearance between your body and the top tube if the bike has a straight top tube (which runs parallel to the ground). When lifting the bike you should have 1” clearance between the tires and the ground. If the bike has a sloping top tube (semi-compact design) you should have a clearance of 2” or more.

Mountain bikes: When straddling the bike lift the bike off the ground and you should have a minimum of 2” clearance between the ground and the tires. With full suspension bikes you will want 1”-2” standover clearance because when you sit on the bike the frame will become lower from compressing the suspension. More aggressive riders will likely have 3”-5” of clearance.

Comfort bikes: Standing over a comfort bike to chose the right sized frame is not necessary. They are commonly designed with a steep sloping top tube and allow the rider to put feet firmly on the ground when the rider comes to a stop.


Now that you have right size for your bike you should adjust the components of the bike to allow for a more comfortable riding experience. Please use the diagram as a point of reference for the following tips. Also be sure to reexamine your bike fit after any bad falls. Keep in mind these measurements are meant to be used as a simple guideline and if you have any pre existing injuries or concerns please be sure to consult your local Physical Therapist or bike fit consultant.


  1. Your Seat or saddle should be level (See “A” on diagram). If it is tilted too far forward there will be too much weight on hands, arms and lower back. If it is too far backward, there may be strain on LB and may lead to saddle related pain.
  2. Your knee should be measured at the most extended position to adjust saddle height. (see “Knee to Pedal”)
  3. The saddle should be a comfortable distance from handlebars. If it is too close it will place too much weight on your mid-back and arms. If it is too far it will put extra strain on your low back and neck. Also make sure seat is the proper width to ensure a more comfortable ride.

Handlebars (HB)

  1. Your handlebar placement will affect your hands, shoulder, neck and back. The higher the handlebars are the more weight is placed on the saddle. Taller riders should have lower handlebars in relation to height of saddle
  2. For road cyclists there should be a 90° angle between your arm (near the shoulder) and your trunk with a slight bend at your elbows of about 15° (See “B” on diagram).
  3. Your trunk angle should be 25-35° if you are a road bike cyclist and 35-90° comfort/recreation cyclist

Knee to Pedal

  1. The knee to pedal measurement should be taken with the knee in the most extended position. There should be about a 25-35° angle at the knee (See “C” on diagram)

Foot to Pedal

If you are a recreational cyclist it’s a good idea to take all the proper steps in preventing injury. This article can be used as a reference point to help to prevent common cycling injuries, enhance your comfort and improve your riding efficiency. If you have any further questions about enhancing your bike fit please contact your local physical therapist or bike fit consultant.


CoAuthor: Sarah Singer, PTA is a physical therapist assistant at Mackarey Physical Therapy, specializing in orthopedic and sports rehab.

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.